A look back: Winter weather in 1973
Storms bring inches of rain, nearly a foot of snow
Compiled by Abbi Overfelt email@example.com
Following this week’s “snowpocalypse,” the staff of the Laurinburg Exchange were drawn this week to weather events detailed in our archives.
Travel with us to 1973, when rain turned Laurinburg streets into rivers and a winter storm blanketed the county with 11 inches of snow.
During this time the Laurinburg Exchange was a thrice-weekly newspaper, publishing on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Feb. 12, 1973: “Worst snow storm in history measures whopping 11 inches”
In 1988 some old duffer will be telling about the big snow of 1973, when 11 inches fell in February and drifts were waist-high.
The snow storm which startled eastern Carolinians this weekend has been called the worst in many a lifetime. In fact, it’s worse that the big snow of January, 1973 — which at that time was informally dubbed the worst in modern history.
With massive portions of the South paralyzed by the unexpected winter storm, Scotland countians could count themselves among the fortunate. Our biggest, most severe headache was and remains that of traffic, with some highways in the county still impassible.
Temperatures dropped to a record low of 10 degrees early this morning, and highway warnings remained in effect in the city and the county. But the sun was shining, and there was hope some of the ice and snow would melt by mid-afternoon. Yesterday’s sun had helped out — but not quite enough.
For the first time in decades church services were called off almost everywhere in the community. There have been occasions when some churches have not held services because of ice and snow, but never before have all services been called off.
Retail businesses were closed in most points Saturday, although most food stores managed to stay open at least for awhile. Numerous other meetings and special programs were cancelled or postponed because of the hostile elements. And of course there was no school today.
At the National Guard armory Sheriff B.P. Lytch operated an emergency station for stranded motorists. About 65 persons took advantage of the offer Saturday night, and another 50 or so made it to their home Sunday night.
Most of the “guests” were motorists whose vehicles were either stuck or blocked on highways in Scotland County.
City, county and state law enforcement and emergency crews remained on duty throughout the weekend.
The sheriff’s department was allowed to use three vehicles owned by the local National Guard unit — a truck and two jeeps. The four-wheel and six-wheel drive helped to keep the deputies moving across the county all weekend. National Guard personnel helped out at the armory and pitched in and served breakfast for the stranded crowed Sunday morning. A few homes were also opened to the stranded travelers.
Also working almost around the clock were members of the rescue squad, the motel operators, and operators of wreckers and tow trucks.
“Those wrecker operators worked until they almost passed out,” was the comment of Chief Deputy J.E. Greene.
‘Crucial’ Fuel Oil Situation: Supply short here
If you heat your home or your business with fuel oil and you are still warm, consider yourself fortunate. Not everybody is getting oil as they want it, and this is happening in Scotland County.
E. Harvey Evans, Jr., president of Service Oil Company, one of the oldest oil distributing firms in the area, says “the situation is critical with us.”
“We would urge people to turn down their thermostats and conserve their fuel.”
Other suppliers voice much the same kind of sentiments. Heating oil seems to be generally in short supply here as it is in many areas.
Armory becomes warm hostelry for weary stranded travelers
Jars of peanut better, jelly and mayonnaise were spread across the counter in the kitchen of the National Guard Armory.
“It was the best meal I ever had,” said the woman from Charleston, W. Va.
She was one of about 65 stranded travelers accommodated overnight Saturday at the armory.
Law enforcement and emergency vehicles picked up the travelers in increasing numbers late Saturday as traffic piled up on the highways of Scotland County. Highway 74 east of Laurinburg was blocked near the grass plant site, where two tractor-trailer trucks had jack-knifed straight across the snowy thoroughfare. Stranded cars were scattered along the highway on opposite sides of the accident site.
“It looked as if someone had picked up a big handful of cars and just dropped them from up above,” commented another stranded traveler.
The armory was a picture of colorful irony.
Red and white streamers, Valentines and cupids adorned the gymnasium area, where the Lauri-Scott Quadrille club, a square dance group, had planned a Valentine party and dance for Saturday night. The dance — like everything else — was called off.
But the decorations were still in place, as if to cheer on the unexpected lodgers. The floors were spread with mattresses and pallets and other makeshift beds, and the armory kitchen was a picture of emergency rations and traditional breakfast foods, rather than punch and party dainties.
Feb. 2, 1973: “Four inches overnight and it’s still raining”
Torrential rains dumped more than four inches of precipitation on Laurinburg overnight and left the area almost in flood conditions.
Dozens of city streets were immersed with water up to the curbing, and while none was officially designated as passable, several blocks were so deep in water that cars drowned out seconds after entering the store.
Except for drown-out cars, damage was at a minimum this morning, as far as the Laurinburg Exchange was able to determine. By 9:30 there had been only one traffic accident inside the city limits, and no reports had been filed in the county.
Sgt. B.Q. McDonald of the State Highway Patrol here stated that all highways and roads were passable, although there was danger of wet brakes in some area. He indicated that the worst place was the point on Highway 501 north where the Ingraham-Rea Magnet plant road intersects at the railroad track.
The sergeant had some advice for motorists who must drive through deep water. He suggests that they drive through the water very slowly, and as they emerge from the water, hold their feet on both the accelerator and the brake pedal, while slowly pumping the brake. The pumping motion on the brake serves to dry out the brakes, preventing a common highway problem during heavy rains.
And, of course, Sgt. McDonald added the traditional “drive carefully” advice.
The surprisingly few traffic accidents in the city led some folks at the police department to surmise that the reason lay in the fact that so many cars were flooded out and stuck that they were not able to get far enough to slip into the water and run into each other.
Schools were in operation as usual, but it was expected that a number of youngsters — and teachers, too — arrived late because of the water.
Assistant Superintendent J. T. Odom Jr. reported that at least 11 buses were stuck either at the driver’s homes or while leaving home, and the other eight just wouldn’t start.
Odom said all of the buses were soon operable and this should not seriously affect the school day.
By 8 o’ clock the total rainfall was 4.22 inches, certainly one of the heaviest rainfalls in recent years, Statistics were not immediately available to check out the record on local rains, but it is known that official records do not go back any more than about 30 years.
The rainfall figure was furnished by the city water plant, which uses standard weather measurement equipment to furnish official statistics for the United States Weather Bureau. That total may be considerably heavier when the next check is made at 8 a.m. Saturday, for heavier showers fell after 8 o’ clock this morning.
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